Tagged: acoustic

A Bit of the Crust

strata

Strata (NEITHER/NOR RECORDS n/n 004) is a very good piece of composed-conducted-improvised music played by an Ensemble of 13 musicians in Brooklyn, New York. Percussionist Carlo Costa is the leader and composer here (and owner of the fine label Neither / Nor Records) the ensemble is called Carlo Costa’s Acustica.

The history of jazz music ensembles, from Duke Ellington to Sun Ra, reveals a pattern whereby the efforts of several talented musicians can play together without getting in each other’s way; both Duke and Ra (and many others) found ways to do this, through arrangements or “charts”, or in Ra’s case perhaps through sheer charisma. Carlo Costa takes that process and slows it right down on Strata, allowing the listener to “see” the arrangements in a composition that’s so transparent that at times it’s more like reading a graph than hearing music. Even the title is calling attention to the layering process. “Layers of sound in different combinations,” is how Costa describes the work, and points out the “spare single layers” as opposed to the “densely stacked multiple layers”. Even without this information, the sheer acoustical separation that’s going on in this performance is highly marked, to say the least.

It’s much to the credit of the very able musicians here that they’re able to realise the work, which I suppose must have taken a fair amount of effort; the restraint they exhibit is audible in just about every moment, forcing themselves to keep it simple, slow, and distinctive, each note etched in sharp relief. The acoustic combinations that arise within these “stratified layers” are often astonishing; even the best orchestrator might be hard pushed to come up with combinations that are as strong. Piano notes, guitar strums, percussive beats, groans from the woodwinds and brass; every note resounds like a pistol shot, everything is key-lit to produce stark and contrasty shadows, and the entire session is fraught with an agonised tension. Costa refers to an “aural space” that’s being built up this way; there are repeated sections, and when they recur they are placed in “different contexts” and in a different location in the whole strata. In doing this, he wants to force a shift of perspective, no less.

The downside, if indeed it is one, is that in this context Acustica are not allowed to cut loose, let rip, or blast their hearts out in the same way that John Gilmore or Marshall Allen might be allowed a rip-roaring solo in any given Sun Ra set. But this is deliberate, it’s a discipline, and the music is a powerful, astringent antidote to so-called “energy” free jazz. If you’re fed up with those heavy-handed Norwegians like Brute Force charging their way into your life with their ugly and blurty take on free jazz, this restrained yet rewarding approach to music will come as a welcome relief. We might also mention at this point the superficial resemblance to the compositions of Morton Feldman (slowness, spaces and gaps, patterns, acoustic instruments), though I suspect it’s just a coincidence. The players include the wonderful Dan Peck on tuba. Be sure to investigate other releases on this label, the quality is very consistent. From 9th March 2016.

Sensitive Chaos

Drums

The fifth item from the Brooklyn free jazz / improv label Neither Nor Records is Drums Of Days (n/n 005) by Flin van Hemmen, a Dutch drummer and composer who settled in New York City about eight years ago. He’s a festival veteran, a strong collaborator, and currently works with groups such as Narcissus, While We Still Have Bodies, and LathanFlinAli. For this set, van Hemmen drums and plays piano, and he’s joined by the bassist Eivind Opsvik (another NYC resident, originally from Oslo) and the American acoustic guitarist Todd Neufeld.

From the opening track, I had the strong impression of hearing classical avant-garde music mutating into free improvisation, almost before my very eyes. This impression was not dispelled by what follows, and indeed seems to match van Hemmen’s intentions almost exactly. He would like us to be mindful of his influences such as the compositions of Morton Feldman and Charles Ives, and the improvisations of his friend Tony Malaby, the New York saxophonist (who contributes an overdub to one track). Flin works very hard at “through-composition”, and what may appear to be a completely “free” piece is more likely to have been carefully structured, where the beginning and end are known quantities and the territory is staked out in advance; the improvisations are subsumed into this structure, as are other elements such as poetry (in one case), post-production, sound-scaping, and the addition of field recordings. It’s to the composer’s credit that neither concept nor technique get in the way of the free flow of the pieces, which proceed with an organic logic without any obvious joins or jarring breaks in the programme.

I suppose “ambiguity and uncertainty” are key themes of this music. I certainly felt these as emotional states while listening. In fact I felt my very contours turning fuzzy and indistinct, and now I’m so faded and transparent you can’t make me out from the wallpaper. Each piece seems to ask a question, or a series of related questions, and never provides a clear answer. Music may be used to set the listener’s mind moving down tracks of enquiry, pondering matters metaphysical, spiritual, or purely practical. If that is the general trend of van Hemmen’s plan, he does it by proceeding quite slowly, and by leaving lots of space. By slow-moving, I mean that this is not the high-energy music of a Cecil Taylor Unit, but neither is the music so completely etherised that it stops moving altogether, like some numbed zombie beast.

This cautious movement is what gives the musicians, and us, time to absorb and consider these new ideas; perhaps it’s like exploring a new environment, taking baby steps. By “lots of space”, I’m referring in general terms to the near-skeletal precision of the music score, where each instrument is purposely showcased to allow us to hear its natural grain, and each musician’s utterance is spotlighted to an almost frightening degree. A statement almost leaps out at you from an abstract space, casting angular shadows against a white wall. The starkness of this creaky acoustic music creates a strong tension with the underlying ambiguity of it all, and such tension may account for why Drums Of Days has so many compelling moments. I can’t quite detect the “cinematic quality of the album” promised by the press notes, but that is a rather subjective description.

The composer feels he is drawing on his considerable knowledge and experience of music to draw on “genres ranging from Romanticism to minimalism, the avant-garde and Modern classical”, and at the same time is driven to “go into new territory”. The purple cover may lead you to find connections with La Monte Young (probably just a coincidence) and his sunglasses show he doesn’t lack a sense of humour. From 9th March 2016.

Understated Saccharine

Bruno Bavota

Bruno Bavota
Mediterraneo
RUSSIA DRONARIVM DR-31 CD-R (2015)

This disc is a little unusual in that it is not the sort of thing that I would usually expect to find within The Sound Projector’s remit, but nevertheless here it is, so here goes. Mediterraneo is a highly pleasant and yet simultaneously extremely unchallenging piano and acoustic guitar music of a hyper-melodic bent. Apparently the recordings were made in total darkness, which could have been an interesting starting point conceptually, but unfortunately, Bavota sees no reason to explore the implications of such a strategy and no attempt is made to develop the idea the way others such as Yiorgis Sakellariou or Francisco López use darkness as part of their own operations.

After two fairly unremarkable pieces, the third, “Hands”, employs a chiming, delayed guitar which threatens to lead us into more interesting Mogwai-like territory, but once the piano starts, the guitar is reduced to providing reverberant swells to support the chord changes. Later, Marco Pescosolido’s cello and Paolo Sasso’s violin augment those same chord changes well and for me it is their efforts which go a long way to turning the piece round.

If a contemporary piano album could have an obvious single, track four “Who Loves, Lives” is it. It is crying out for a female pop vocal and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being sampled with a vocal line courtesy of someone like Ellie Goulding before long. Track five, “Alba”, uses a similar fingerstyle acoustic guitar progression as Kaleidophon’s Here from 1998, but where Kaleidophon deliberately left in recording and production errors as textural artefacts, Bavota’s recital on guitar here is pristine and flawless and as such maybe lacks a little interest and authority. When the distantly-recorded Steinway (a model D274, the sleevenotes inform us) kicks in, the piece improves immeasurably. Incidentally, the first cassette-radio I owned was made by a company called Alba. Moving on, the super-restrained, quiet beginning of “The Night” could almost be a Talk Talk / Mark Hollis homage until yet another endlessly repeated, tricksy little melody rudely obliterates the effect.

The nadir of the album (so far – track 7) is the title track which sounds lovely in terms of production value, but employs an annoyingly unchanging chord structure, predictable melody, and perhaps the most amount of understated saccharine I’ve ever heard in an album of popular music. I suspect these are all deliberate strategies on the part of Mr Bavota. From a record company’s point of view it ticks all the boxes; great production, skilled performances, accessible composition, but to me it’s like everything I’ve ever heard squished together into a nice neat block of “what contemporary popular piano music should sound like”, with all the fat, gristle and offal removed. Have you ever seen those vacuum packed pre-cooked half chickens you get in convenience stores? That’s what this reminds me of. Superficially beguiling but once you get stuck in, it proves to be tasteless, wan, textureless and of dubious nutritional value. By the ninth offering, “Sweet Fall”, it is obvious Bavota is aiming to plough a similar furrow in more or less every track, but he’s got plenty of diesel left. Clumping piano block chords descend for ever in to an abyss of self-satisfied cleverness. I could suggest that most nine-year-olds learning the piano could produce a similar result.

Bavota is credited as composer, arranger and with piano, guitar delay, reverb and, fashionably, field recordings. Where are these field recordings? I couldn’t actually hear any. Where were they made? Who were they made by if not Bavota himself? The press release mentions “…the sound of the autumn rain…” but I’ve not been able to spot it. Albums of this sort are probably very popular with people who hold a lot of dinner parties, but I personally felt like I was either in a motivational video for bank workers or watching a trailer for the latest Hollywood rom-com most of the time. Or listening to Coldplay Unplugged if such a thing exists. So far this year we’ve lost talent like David Bowie, Keith Emerson, Lemmy Kilmister and most recently, Prince Rogers Nelson – is this the sort of new thing we really should welcome into the pop mainstream? You decide.

Pour L’Orgue

Stefan Rusconi

On Levitation (QILIN RECORDS QILIN 011), we have an impressive team-up between two young Swiss jazz musicians, the pianist Stefan Rusconi and the violinist Tobias Preisig. They recorded it in the church of Saint Etienne in Cully, where Rusconi sat himself behind the church organ, Preisig amplified his violin, and both were assisted by the recording engineer Hannes Tumke who employed judicious close-miking to capture “the innermost parts of the instruments”. Rusconi may be more at home on the piano usually; he leads a modern jazz trio who have been making records since about 2004, some of them released on Qilin Records and Bee Jazz; and they have distinguished themselves by recording cover versions of Sonic Youth tunes, and performing with Fred Frith. Preisig’s In Transit from 2012 likewise looks like the result of an eclectic mix of influences, leading him to experiment with a Leonard Cohen cover version and a composition partly inspired by Fauré.

Over time we have at TSP received the occasional record made in a church or cathedral, quite often an improvised record or a piece of sound art. The musicians involved sometimes seem to have an agenda. In some instances they deliberately ignore any devotional or religious aspects of the building they find themselves in, and concentrate on physical matters – exploring the acoustics in a methodical fashion. In some extreme cases I have even sensed there’s an attempt to undermine established Christianity, for instance by bringing secular modern music into hallowed ground, and by extension inviting thought or comment on the restrictions of society, government, church and state. No such thoughts appear to have crossed the minds of Rusconi and Preisig, who in fact were quite respectful to their surroundings, and even felt inspired by the “atmosphere”. Their respect didn’t extend as far as their dress choice, if their t-shirts, jeans, casual shoes and baseball cap are anything to go by, but no matter. That sort of thing wouldn’t have washed in an Italian church, lemme tell ya!

Musically, I think their strongest offering is placed upfront, the opening track ‘Béatrice’. It’s about 15 minutes of delicate and wispy drone music clearly inspired by “spectral” composers, where the pair manage to create surface effects on a par with Ligeti’s micro-tonal work of the 1960s; the press notes even invite us to find comparisons with Pink Floyd, which might be something of a stretch. Via its title, ‘Béatrice’ vaguely evokes religious themes with its tangential reference to Dante; and the music retains a solemn and profound aspect throughout. I’m less impressed by the short pieces that follow, many of which are more conventional arrangements playing mix-and-match games with arpeggios, simple fugues, and clumsy attempts to build melodies; they emerge as unfinished, sketchy, and overly sentimental. Regular readers will recall how the French improviser Jean-Luc Guionnet has devoted a lot of time to learning the complexities of the church organ and developing an improvisational style that is a significant departure from conventional organ playing. Rusconi has not yet embarked on such a venture, and remains blighted by rather ordinary jazz / classical riffing.

Even if my preference is for the open-ended ethereal forms of ‘Béatrice’, ‘Mme Tempête’ is also appealing – four minutes of a stern bass drone, a mixed chord where the only variations are provided by changing the surface of the tone, perhaps through electronic means. And ‘Pour L’Orgue’ wins bonus points for its slowness and duration, probably intending to evoke a ceremonial mood as a kind of updated recessional, while keeping one eye on the works of Olivier Messiaen.

A six-panel digipak created by Paul Polaris features a graphic image clearly proposing an analogy between the organ and the human lungs and the respiratory system; another panel makes its meaning even more explicit, with an embossed golden heart. From 1st February 2016.

Preisig & Rusconi Bandcamp page

Hello To The Day

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Following on from 2014’s The Orchard, English combo Hamilton Yarns continue their preoccupation with oblique story-telling on their new release, which is two short-ish releases at 25 mins apiece, yoked together in a hand-screenprinted gatefold card cover. 2 Coins In A Fountain / The Eye Of The Storm (HARKIT HARK!023) is intended as an episodic journey, each song representing glimpsed highlights of pastoral beauty, strangeness and charm along the trail. To this end, the music is enhanced with field recordings and sound effects reminiscent of the English countryside. On 2 Coins, many of the songs are typically ramshackle and low-key undemonstrative pop music, almost the polar opposite of an R’n’B diva giving it hell for leather through a pair of cracked lungs; the voices of Iain Paxon, Alistair Strachan, Daisey Wakefield and Josephine Dimbleby sound more like they’re welcoming you into their front parlour for a slice of Dundee cake. The closing tracks ‘Drifting I’ and ‘Drifting II’ are the high spots of this first half; combining all their interests in Eno-influenced ambient music, home-made kosmische drone, and friendly Childrens’ TV music from the 1970s in a wholly unselfconcsious manner.

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The artworks for 2 Coins confirm that it’s the “daytime” half of the act, while Eye of the Storm is the nocturne. Here the music is less oriented in the direction of conventional pop songs and tends towards atmospheric mood music, even more washed-out drones, eccentric and highly treated studio effects, and a general tone of introverted contemplation. Field recordings from Lewes, Brighton and Sussex enhance the dreamy sensations. ‘Be The One’ and ‘Across The Sky’ are two high spots here, where the combo exhibit incredible restraint in both composition and performance, and what emerges is a bare-bones construct of pop music, its languid melody and understated chords barely hanging together. In like manner, the artworks are all like deconstructed snapshots from a forgotten children’s book of the 1960s, taken out of context; proposing links between country walks and diagrammatic views of the cosmos. A fully integrated release in terms of its content, packaging, and delivery; recommended. From 12 August 2015.

The Finish Field

rendezvous-with-rama

We have heard from Ruth Garbus and received her 2014 Joule EP she made for OSR Tapes (not yet reviewed); here’s an entire album of her fragile songs called Rendezvous With Rama (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR 191). Ruth is based in Brattleboro Vermont, also home to the songwriting team Blanche Blanche Blanche, who are likewise represented on this label. Where the Blanche duo are somewhat mannered and artificial, making a virtue out of their irony and obliqueness, Ruth Garbus is far more direct and honest in her songwriting, and in her delivery. Just a voice and an acoustic guitar strumming simple chords, but what a voice…incredibly soft and gentle, almost barely staining the recording tape with its suffused presence, yet she never misses a note, even when attempting some quite challenging scales and intervals.

Rendezvous is quite the introverted album and sure to appeal to shut-ins, lonely young people and romantics around the world, but it has an honesty and clarity which marks this out as something quite special. I’d like to be able to decipher more of the lyrics, but you can tell from Ruth’s tone that every word is sincere and heartfelt. If you find Joni Mitchell’s Blue too outspoken and contrived, this is just the record for you…it will take you to a very small and intimate, personal place. Very good indeed. From September 2015.

Slow Food

fieldtone

Fieldtone are a five-piece of Belgian players who perform four very languid and dreamy pieces on Book Of Air (GRANVAT / SUB ROSA SRV412)…it’s done using guitars both electric and acoustic, double bass, and drums, and the way they perform is closer to some late-night smooth jazz cafe situation than anything to do with hard rock music. Low-key, restraint and taut playing are the keywords; the listener’s metabolic rate is slowed down instantly, just by turning on the CD player. Stijn Cools, the drummer of the band, is credited with music composition; and the release is described as the first chapter in a series of “bundled compositions for improvised music”.

Fieldtone have discovered to their own satisfaction that there’s a sound embedded in nature, and have taken its “slow groove” as inspiration for their music, based largely it seems on positive but highly subjective emotions they may have felt by the seaside or walking in the forest or simply sitting in an open field. Emotions too deep to be expressed in words are instead expressed by silence; at root, it’s this silence – something which might imply a deep respect for nature – which Fieldtone are attempting to capture in their slow music. There’s also something to do with “room tone”, which may be about the acoustics and “unique character” of a performance space. However the notes also refer to the times when a performance space is dormant, and no music is played or no words are spoken in this space. They want to capture that too. At this point I could feel the exercise becoming a shade too metaphysical for my poor brain to comprehend.

The music is played with faultless expertise, for sure, and the assurance with which easy syrupy strum is uttered, or each string harmonic is plucked carries a lot of weight and craft behind it. I find each piece is also very static; in attempting to bottle the indefinable atmosphere of nature in this way, Fieldtone opt to stay pretty much in one place for a very long time, the better to contemplate their projected memories of fields and skies, and savour the lush silences. While the ideas on offer are original, and one must applaud their ecological bent, I find this record unsatisfying; the tastefulness of their sound is a problem for me, and the sense that the musicians are not really exerting themselves very much at all. From November 2015.

Antico Adagio: spellbinding minimalist music of beauty and intense focus

antico_adagio_400px

Lino Capra Vaccina, Antico Adagio, Die Schachtel, DS27CD (2014)

First issued in 1978, this beautiful if unassuming recording of minimalist compositions based around the sounds of various percussion instruments played by Lino “Capra” Vaccina, accompanied by four other musicians, was reissued on CD by Die Schachtel in 2014 and reprinted in 2015 – the sign of a very popular reissue. The CD reissue also includes bonus tracks from another recording, “Frammenti da Antico Adagio” which consists of unreleased music from the original 1978 recording sessions for “Antico Adagio”.

I can understand why the album sold out promptly on its reissue: despite its quiet, inward-looking nature, the music can be really spellbinding in its intense focus, and it draws listeners deep, far deep into its twinkling depths. By necessity the music needs to be played loudly enough the first few times, especially third track “Canti delle sfere” which is a very sonorous beast dominated by the rich tones, vibrations and echoes of a gong, all beckoning listeners into the dark austere universe of stately moving planets from which it hails. After you’ve spun the recording often enough to know as many tracks as you want, you’ll be wishing that most pieces here should have run at least twice as long as they actually do, just to stay in the strange worlds opened up in the album.

There is a lot of repetition as might be expected in minimalist music and much of the music seems to be an exploration of percussion-generated tones and rhythms that might act as portals into unknown alien worlds. Sometimes the repetition works well and at other times it does sound clunky and a bit boring if it continues on too long (as on the title track). Atmosphere exists as a by-product of the music and if you’re so inclined, you can allow it to lull you into a peaceful meditative state in which lightness and a feeling of oneness with the universe are possible. While the attitude might be studious, the music never feels forced.

Most tracks are very enjoyable though I did find “Motus” a bit less than satisfying, probably because its layered quality and earnest beat seemed so out of place with the rest of the album. The best tracks retain an air of spontaneity and lightness that allow them to trip lightly by. There is a majestic quality as well to the recording and it really does come across as a soundtrack that would win its hypothetical film a clutch of awards.

This definitely is an album to be heard at least once. After that, you may well find yourself returning to it again and again and again … you’ll probably even be looking forward to the next reprint …

 

Secret Sorrows

karlaborecky

In same envelope as the IFCO album was a copy of Karla Borecky’s solo piano record, Still In Your Pocket (RECITAL NINE), released in 2014. Borecky has been honing her skills on the piano for some years now, and it’s excellent that she’s been given this showcase for her music. It’s in marked contrast to the IFCO album; for Lost At Sea, the piano is just one part of the overall composition, and the piano figures have been compressed and forced into a particular form. On Still In Your Pocket, the musician is able to stretch out a little more, but every piece remains a model of clarity and simplicity. You could divide the album into its two sides (and LPs used to be programmed this way, back in the good old days); five shorter “narrative” tunes are on side one, the two long “abstract and modernist” pieces are on side two. The A side reminded one reviewer of Chopin nocturnes; me, I think of Erik Satie, only a far less playful Satie, not a man amused by umbrellas and tea parties and parlour games, but one who finds himself transported against his will from early 20th century Europe into the desolation of a modern American shopping mall, and doesn’t know where to turn in his confused and cresftallen state. Titles here indicate we could read the tunes as short stories (‘Suspense in the Library’), as landscape paintings (‘The Passing of Clouds’) as mood pieces, (‘The Sadness of Things’), or all three. If I recall, Karla has also done a painting called ‘The Sadness of Things’. To a prog fan like myself, this could be the acoustic update on ELP’s Pictures At An Exhibition. Unlike ELP, compression and brevity, along with invention and melody, are the watchwords here.

On the B side, we have the excellent ‘Structure’ and the title track, both quite lengthy and as above highly reminiscent of Morton Feldman and John Cage – only there is far more heart and emotion in one minute of Borecky’s music than John Cage managed in a lifetime of arid composition. As to structure, it’s as though she’s imitating a Feldman-like approach to creating patterns, only doing so by pure intuition rather than through compositional methods; although I’m not sure if the pieces are written, spontaneous, or represent some halfway-house approach. If I am right about the intuition, she may share some common ground with Ashley Paul, who has listened to so much Feldman it’s practically in her bones, and aims to feed the inspiration directly into her spontaneous guitar music. While I enjoy the up-tempo and semi-narrative A side, the spare B-side is just perfect in its austerity, and is a totally mesmerising 20 minutes which enables the listener to enter a very still and serene zone, which you will be reluctant to depart from. In all, a very genuine and heartfelt, crafted work of art.

Gnosis: fusion of east and west, body and spirit, in a rich and hypnotic work

Spectral Lore, Gnosis, Italy, I, Voidhanger Records, CD EP IVR050 (2015)

I understand that this EP isn’t typical of Spectral Lore’s ambient BM discography but after reading a few reviews of some of this act’s other recordings, I realise that Ayloss, the man behind Spectral Lore, isn’t one to stick to the straight and narrow left-hand path. “Gnosis” is a very rich, beautiful and hypnotic work that fuses powerful and hard-hitting corrosive black metal and music of a more esoteric and mystical bent drawn from folk music traditions in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. If ever you desire to hear fusion black metal / psychedelia combined with music from former Orthodox Christian / Byzantine imperial territories, this highly immersive and evocative EP is the work to refer to.

As its title suggests, “Dualism” straddles the parallel universes of tough, straightforward BM and the soundscapes of blazing hot winds sweeping over shifting landforms of sand through which ghosts of people who lived and died in these regions over the millennia whisper warnings against venturing too far into these desolate realms. While guitars dominate here with twisting Oriental melody and powerful riffs, the drums pound out near-tribal beats and synthesisers add an epic brassy aspect that turn the track into a mini-movie soundtrack. “Gnosis’ Journey through the Ages” is an even more powerful if perhaps repetitive and somewhat unstructured juggernaut of crashing percussion, exotic winding quarter-tone melody, harsh desert demon sighing and expansive windswept and sand-blasted soundscapes that suggest a long, tortuous and perhaps brutal and violent history of Gnosticism through the ages, surviving persecution again and again through underground movements and societies.

“Averroes’ Search”, a reference to the mediaeval Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd who defended secular reasoning, and the short story of the same name by 20th-century Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, is an all-acoustic affair of squiggly guitar, bass and percussion mixing formless improvisation and an intricate winding melody accompanied by stately rhythms. The song links two personages (Ibn Rushd and Borges) of two very different and perhaps opposed ages with Ayloss, and its message is that cultures of both East and West have more in common than people realise. By itself “Averroes’ Search” is a very entertaining, absorbing and above all fun piece but it is very long. In the context of the whole recording, it saps the earlier momentum and intensity built up by previous tracks. “A God made of Flesh and Consciousness” is a return to fusion BM / Oriental music form, and while it’s quite a good solid track there are occasional filler-music moments where the guitars seem to be constantly on the defensive battling unseen monsters and barriers, and not advancing very much.

Final track “For Aleppo” appears to stand out from the rest of the EP and has an elegiac and sorrowful mood. The piece may be a lament for the destruction of the Syrian city’s priceless cultural heritage by fanatical ISIS and other Wahhabi Islamist takfiris. A listener can be made painfully aware of the permanence of impermanence, when valued culture in the form of particular objects, the buildings of a city, and the ways in which they are laid out and structured to reflect community values, is destroyed and lost forever.

This is a very singular, passionate and entrancing recording. There are a few stylistic details that I would quibble about but these are my personal preferences: if I’d been the one waving a whip, I’d ask for the acoustic tracks and “A God …” to be tightened up and edited for length and for less background synthesiser imitating conventional Western orchestras. The BM element on this recording is strong and powerful enough to support more live acoustic instrumentation in the cultural traditions being referenced here.

I’d go so far as to say that, with the passage of time, “Gnosis” may come to be considered a major black metal fusion classic of its kind.

PS: The cover of the album is a reproduction of the painting “Lycinna” by John William Godward (1861 – 1922), a late 19th-century British Neoclassicist painter who had the misfortune of being a contemporary of French Impressionists and (later) post-Impressionist and avant-garde art movements. The choice of a Godward painting as the album cover may reflect an interest in an idealised world and culture that could have existed but whose opportunity for existence has now been lost. Significantly, while Godward was alive his work was derided for being outdated but his reputation has risen since his death.